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Little Ella will be 14 wks this Thursday and is growing like a weed! After about a month, yesterday she finally gave me what I call a "poodle hug" where she folded her head into my chest and nestled it under my chin. I melted.... My baby is trying to show she loves me but she is killing me with her "hard mouth". I had never heard of this term until my trainer mentioned it during one of our exercises last week. Since, I've read more about it and some literature with mixed approaches of how to train a pup into a soft mouth. I am aware that many poodles are very "mouthy" and Ella is no exception. There are times that she moves your hand around her mouth and just munches -- sometimes starting very hard and other times starting soft and getting progressively harder. It almost seems involuntary. There are also times that she simply wants to hold your hand in your mouth. During these times, she does not really bit down much, just closes her mouth enough to keep the hand in. It seems to pacify her (not quite sure how to explain this). Nevertheless, for those who have experience "hard mouth" and super mouthy spoo pups, were there specific training activities that you used to help them develop a softer bite? Do "hard mouthed" puppies automatically become "hard mouthed" adults? For those successful in their training, about how long did this take? I know all dogs do things in their own time, I am just wondering if there is a developmental stage or age at which I should be concerned and knowing that an end is possible (even if far from sight), would be nice.
 

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I would follow the standard puppy biting advice: squeal and turn away from any bites that (at first) are hard enough to hurt, escalating to squealing for more gentle bites as the idea begins to sink in, offer an alternative chew toy to satisfy the need to mouth things, and do lots and lots of hand feeding, praising and rewarding gentleness. Bite inhibition is well worth teaching, but can take time and effort, and can be painful when it means letting those needle teeth onto your skin.
 

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I would follow the standard puppy biting advice: squeal and turn away from any bites that (at first) are hard enough to hurt, escalating to squealing for more gentle bites as the idea begins to sink in, offer an alternative chew toy to satisfy the need to mouth things, and do lots and lots of hand feeding, praising and rewarding gentleness. Bite inhibition is well worth teaching, but can take time and effort, and can be painful when it means letting those needle teeth onto your skin.
Yep, we definitely started with the squeal, however, she seems to get more excited by it and charges you more. I have modified this to a quiet "ouch", remove myself (no touching or eye contact), wait a bit, and return....repeated while observing for the slightest correction.

By the way, when do adult teeth come in? It's been 15 years since I have had a puppy and do not recall. I only recall actually finding most of the puppy teeth of my pug and saving them (weird -- I know).
 

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I rather doubt your pup has a hard mouth. A dog with a hard mouth is one that will commonly hold and not let go and is likely to break skin. A mouthy puppy is not easily characterized as such. It is natural for puppies to mouth each other and to do it somewhat hard with little nips and inadvertent skin breaks. Their deciduous teeth are sharp on purpose so that as the litter mates play and bite each other it hurts and they learn how it feels and how to give an inhibited bite as an adult.

There are many strategies for dealing with puppy nipping. In short: redirecting to an appropriate toy, saying ouch loudly and acting hurt, stopping play are all things people use to varying levels of effect. For myself I like just stopping play since you can do it no matter where you are and you don't have to walk around armed with toys. If you are over emotional in your pretend (or actual) hurt it can make the puppy more excited rather than teaching that lesson of not to hurt with teeth. ETA seeing your comment in response to fjm if ouch doesn't work then choose the disengage strategy. You can expect the deciduous teeth to shed starting at about 4 or 5 months of age.

The main reasons a puppy might really not have any understanding of an inhibited bite would be having an insufficient number of litter mates and/or being removed from the litter mates too soon and not having had sufficient opportunities to learn inhibited mouthing before going to their new home.
 
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Ian Dunbar advocates for teaching a pup bite inhibition before teaching them not to mouth at all, and I think this is a good strategy. I get to a point where I don't permit play nipping (prey/herding drive) at all, but many poodles find it deeply satisfying to gently hold your hand or otherwise *gently* make mouth contact.

I find that jerking away or squealing just ups their excitement for the nipping game. Being very quiet and serious and making yourself physically unavailable to bite works better. Replacing your flesh with a toy also helps.
 

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Verve once a puppy is a bit older and still sort of mouthy I actually encourage gentle mouthing since I want to be able to put my hands in the dog's mouth if needs be to remove forbidden foreign objects or to deliver medication. Little puppies have a hard time making that distinction though.
 

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Monty was probably roughly 7 months old when I got him. I found that removing myself was the really effective way to go about it. Too hard, and the game ended. I don't think any of the noises I made really imparted any kind of learning but they did interrupt him, making my removal easier. I do not mind him touching me with his mouth and teeth, it had just better not be uncomfortable in the slightest. Once he got it, it was so cute to see the look of surprise when he inadvertently caught himself being too mouthy!

As with all training, consistency was the key!
 

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I rather doubt your pup has a hard mouth. A dog with a hard mouth is one that will commonly hold and not let go and is likely to break skin. A mouthy puppy is not easily characterized as such. It is natural for puppies to mouth each other and to do it somewhat hard with little nips and inadvertent skin breaks. Their deciduous teeth are sharp on purpose so that as the litter mates play and bite each other it hurts and they learn how it feels and how to give an inhibited bite as an adult.

There are many strategies for dealing with puppy nipping. In short: redirecting to an appropriate toy, saying ouch loudly and acting hurt, stopping play are all things people use to varying levels of effect. For myself I like just stopping play since you can do it no matter where you are and you don't have to walk around armed with toys. If you are over emotional in your pretend (or actual) hurt it can make the puppy more excited rather than teaching that lesson of not to hurt with teeth. ETA seeing your comment in response to fjm if ouch doesn't work then choose the disengage strategy. You can expect the deciduous teeth to shed starting at about 4 or 5 months of age.

The main reasons a puppy might really not have any understanding of an inhibited bite would be having an insufficient number of litter mates and/or being removed from the litter mates too soon and not having had sufficient opportunities to learn inhibited mouthing before going to their new home.
Thanks for the input. I have no idea what a hard vs soft mouth is as I do not recall much mouthing with my previous pups (though it is possible that I simply forgot over time). As for breaking skin, I would say that this happens only 20% of the time. The calm "ouch" response seems to be the most effective thus far. Ella is a determined pup and redirection with a toy rarely works as she tries to nip around it. Swinging a rope toy can work for a few seconds and then she is back at the skin.

My little shark will soon be 4 months young. She may not stop mouthing, but losing the shark teeth will be nice. I really should not complain as to date she has done well with furniture and other items. She's a great puppy.
 

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Ian Dunbar advocates for teaching a pup bite inhibition before teaching them not to mouth at all, and I think this is a good strategy. I get to a point where I don't permit play nipping (prey/herding drive) at all, but many poodles find it deeply satisfying to gently hold your hand or otherwise *gently* make mouth contact.

I find that jerking away or squealing just ups their excitement for the nipping game. Being very quiet and serious and making yourself physically unavailable to bite works better. Replacing your flesh with a toy also helps.

Thanks Verve! I read this in the Dunbar book as well. My goal is to try to teach good bite inhibition to ensure the safety of Ella and others. The quiet approach definitely works better with Ella. Any squealing or quick movements definitely up the ante and she becomes very excited. I will be patient and stick with the quiet approach.

It seems she may be one of the poodles that likes to hold your hand in her mouth -- when she does this, she appears very relaxing, calm, and comforted. I don't mind this at all as I find it to be rather sweet, but I do want to be sure we have the play nipping under control. I read an article in Whole Dog Journal that suggested we have dangling ropes made of old jeans to help mitigate the charge and nip at the legs and backside that she loves to do. I have only tried this once as I forgot to bring it out this morning when the little monkey wanted to swing from my dress.
 

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Verve once a puppy is a bit older and still sort of mouthy I actually encourage gentle mouthing since I want to be able to put my hands in the dog's mouth if needs be to remove forbidden foreign objects or to deliver medication. Little puppies have a hard time making that distinction though.
I am also gently rubbing all of Ella's teeth with my finger with the hope of prepping her for brushing later on. Luckily, she is quite amenable to it.
 

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I had a little vampire in the form of a Belgian Malinois pup. I loved her dearly but she was brutal. She was a one pup wrecking machine. We lived out on a big farm & she was the perfect farm dog however the little nice parts of life, you know the ones where you're puppy doesn't put you on the 'needs a blood transfusion list', were becoming difficult. So I ended up taking an opposite approach. If you tried to remove your hand, she became worse. So instead I would go opposite. If she got my hand I would put it just a smidge further into her mouth than was comfortable. Sometimes that only means stroking the tongue near the back. (I don't mean ramming your hand in there. Nothing rude). I was very calm, unemotional about the whole thing. Just put the tongue or the roof of the mouth. If she got really determined I'd say, "OH I GET IT! You want me to mess with your mouth. Let's do that." So, I'd inspect teeth. I'd check her gums & tongue. Soon this was not the fun time she expected so she quit doing that. I also think because I wasn't rude or mad about this, I just acted like this is what I thought she was trying to get me to do. I let her teach me. Maybe she thought she got a defective human. But biting my hands just wasn't fun so she stopped. But in all that mouth checking I did, she learned she could trust me with her mouth so if she got something wedged in her teeth, I could go get it. If she got a cut, I could treat it. No fuss. No muss. Which is nice. As she got a little older & would start to grab my hand, she would touch her teeth to my hand & I'd say, "EASY" & she'd look up at me, my hand with her teeth just touching & I'd say, "GOOD easy." Very quickly she picked up on the easy + good easy. She liked to please me. So all through her life if she went to get something with her mouth & I said 'easy' she would adjust her grip. Moving an 1800 pound bull didn't require easy. Moving a chicken required "EASY". All that stemmed form the little vampire puppy who thought fingers were for eating!

Poodles are such smart dogs. You might not need to go the route I had to with my Vamp-Malinois but it's another tool to put in the toolbox in the event you need it. Generally if they're mouthing for fun & they don't get the 'fun' part they stop. But remember if you ever have to use my way, never do it in a manner like punishment.

My Grandma's little mini poodle was mouthy as a puppy. I would simply get her muzzle in my hand & say, "no bite" in a stern tone with a frown on my face. I would give her a toy & say 'get it' & she'd pound & I'd say, "Good get it." I never had a single tooth mark on me. Gram wasn't so lucky. But she would refuse to play. If the puppy was being mouthy, Gram would take the fetch toy & tuck it under her arm & ignore the puppy. Smart as a whip, she figured this out. How she could train her human to play was to pounce on the toy, not Gram's hands. She was a doll.
 

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So I ended up taking an opposite approach. If you tried to remove your hand, she became worse. So instead I would go opposite. If she got my hand I would put it just a smidge further into her mouth than was comfortable. Sometimes that only means stroking the tongue near the back. (I don't mean ramming your hand in there. Nothing rude). I was very calm, unemotional about the whole thing. Just put the tongue or the roof of the mouth. If she got really determined I'd say, "OH I GET IT! You want me to mess with your mouth. Let's do that." So, I'd inspect teeth. I'd check her gums & tongue. Soon this was not the fun time she expected so she quit doing that. I also think because I wasn't rude or mad about this, I just acted like this is what I thought she was trying to get me to do.
I have had good success with this approach as well. And I agree that the calmness and matter-of-factness are key. The Naughty Dogge (awesome blog) talks about complementing your dog's energy level, so if your dog is wild and keyed up, you need to be very still and calm.
 

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I've had a lot of puppies who bit hard but when they found that hard nipping and biting made the fun stop, they bit less hard. So I disagree that bite inhibition can not be taught. (if that's what the article is saying...not sure I'm understanding it right...read it kind of fast) Of course they can still bite hard if they feel a need to. But regulating the pressure of their bite, imo, is a learned thing, whether they learn all by themselves early on, from other puppies or from their humans. I think it is also a breed thing, with some breeds naturally having a lighter bite than others. Retrievers usually have a soft mouth, while protection dogs may tend to really bite down. But no doubt there are loads of exceptions.

My Doberman was a barracuda as a puppy and young dog when I gave him treats (ouch!) but he didn't always bite like that. He learned to inhibit his bite as he grew up and found out that snapping for a treat got him no treat. My Lab had a soft, gentle mouth but not at the very first. Those puppy needle teeth are still sharp no matter.

My poodles grew up together and played hard. Sometimes one would yelp and give a calming signal, like stopping the play and scratching or turning the head away....telling the other, "time out." They were pretty rough at first on human hands when I got them, but within about 2 weeks, a very short time, their bites became very much softer and now when they play mouthing games with me (which I encourage, if gentle) they set their teeth on me ever so gently, never biting down. I don't know who had the most influence... the other puppy or me. But regardless, hard biting was met with...game over.

So while I agree biting is an innate behavior and any dog can bite however he needs to according to his dogginess, the regulation of pressure, timing of appropriateness, the scenarios in our culture etc is learned.

If something happens that signals an emergency to a dog where a bite is quite natural, then he'll bite however he feels a need to but if he's experienced and rewarded all along for gentler biting, he may just have something signal to his (re-wired) brain that perhaps this time he doesn't need to bite down too hard. I say "re-wired" because I believe that our brains are capable of taking new pathways as a result of learning and what was brought about by conscious thinking may become automatic. I don't know if that would be the case here but I don't think that bite inhibition has no component of learning in it.

I don't know...Like the article says, there is no "evidence." All I can go on is my own first hand experience with having dogs for close to 60 years, observing and training them for a good deal of that time.
 
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